Your Questions: Answered! (2)

Another installment of “Your Questions: Answered!” send us your writing questions with the subject line “Question for the Panel” and we will publish our answers here!


Question:

 

 

I have a question. How do you identify a theme in your novel? This is something I’ve always struggled with.

– Ashley

Questions Post Graphic

 

Answer:

 

Dear Ashley,

Here are a series of questions you can ask yourself which should help identify the theme in your novel.

  • Your novel is built on a foundation; the theme. If you could narrow your novel down to one little statement of truth, which you believe, what would it be?
  • What is the main lesson your hero needs to learn? 
  • What are common problems in your novel? Do they point to a theme?
  • Could you describe your novel with any cliché or adage, if so, what would it be?
  • What are the common character flaws and/or dreams in your novel?

I hope this helps you. Good luck with your novel!

– Haley Long

 

Question:

I have a question about how much I should share my books and poetry. I’m a Christian, and I chiefly write for self-reflection and to examine social issues; but I am apprehensive about letting acquaintances read my work because it might negatively change their perception of who I am. I’ve written about depression, self-harm, child soldiers, and many other issues that make for heavy subject material. Should I just stop writing about these things? Or should I make a pen-name so people don’t know it is me writing? I’m not sure what to do.

– Hosanna

 

Answer:

 

Hello Hosanna, 

There is nothing wrong with writing for self-reflection and keeping those writings to yourself. Writing only for ourselves can yield many benefits. 

To answer your question about whether or not you should be writing on the topics of depression, self-harm, child soldiers, etc., I don’t know your specific circumstances, so I don’t want to say “yes” or “no” concerning your unique example. However, generally speaking, I don’t think it is wrong for Christians to write on these topics, especially considering they could be called epidemics in our culture. How we write about them is important, though.

I know quite a few Christians who glorify such things as self-harm or depression, or try to defend these actions.I don’t think this honors God. We should pouring hope and healing into our stories, and showing the better life in Christ, not elevating depression and self-inflicted harm, as these are the domains of Satan, not Christ.

But there are many people who struggle with these vices, among other things, and I think it is important for Christians to write on these topics, and to offer hope to those who are trapped, rather than merely trying to justify the darkness.

Concerning your question on whether or not you should use a pen-name, there are good and bad reasons to use one.

Fear is always a poor motivation, and we should never make a decision based on fear. If your opinions or beliefs are controversial, I think you should be willing to defend your position. We should not fear the opinions of others. Jesus said quite a few things that led to others forming negative opinions of Him. In fact, Jesus hurt some people’s feelings so bad they killed Him! Our goal as Christians should be to please God, not to please man. Our concern should be with how God will judge our writing, not how other people will judge it. 

Additionally, if you are writing material that you are ashamed of, you are probably better off changing your content, rather than your name. But if you are not ashamed of your writing, and you believe it to be honoring to God, then I personally think you should stand for your beliefs. 

Again, I don’t know your unique circumstances, and this is my mere opinion. 

I hope this helps! Keep writing for Christ!

– Reagan Ramm

 

Your Questions: Answered!

Hello word wielders! Questions Post Graphic

Back before Kingdom Pen’s hiatus, we had a feature called “Your Questions: Answered” where we would answer writing related questions sent in by KP subscribers. This was a feature for the eMag, but since the magazine won’t be back until December, we decided to bring this to the website.

Do you have a question about writing? Email us at kingdompenmag@gmail.com, using the subject line, “Question For The Panel”. Once a month, we will compile your questions, answer them to the best of our ability, and then post the Q/A here on Kingdompen.org.

Here are a couple recent questions we received:

Question: 

I am a young writer who very recently subscribed. I have a question about writing. I write fiction. Sometimes it is fantasy, and sometimes it is more in the style and time period of Charles Dickens and other such famous authors. But regardless of what kind of story I am writing, I invariably run into the same problem halfway through my story. I become so deeply absorbed in, acquainted, if you will, with the main character that I lose sight of who he or she is for a time. I usually end up going back  and reading all their other previous scenes, and that helps tremendously, but I would be very grateful for any advice you can offer. Is this normal? Is there any way to avoid it?

– Kate

 

Answer:

Hello Kate! 

You are saying that as you are writing, you lose track of your main character’s personality. Is that correct? Because becoming deeply absorbed and acquainted with your main character is a very good thing. But if you are saying that you are sort of losing track of who they are, and you have to go back and read earlier scenes to reacquaint yourself, then that makes sense, and is normal. I have personally had this problem myself.I have found the easiest way to address this problem is to outline and create a character sketch.
Character sketch:
Write down everything you know about your MC at the start. List all of their idiosyncrasies and personality quirks. List all the phrases they like to use, list habits or unique body language tendencies. What motivates them? What are their fears? What makes them happy? Sad? Embarrassed? Really get to know your main character before you start writing.For more on this, I recommend you read K.M. Weiland’s free e-book, Crafting Unforgettable Characters.
Outline:
If your story includes a character arch, then outline it! Get your character’s progression straight in your own mind. Write out how they will change from one scene to the next. Also list what features from your character sketch might reveal themselves in each scene. As always, these personality elements should arise naturally from the plot and the characters.If you don’t like outlining or creating character sketches, then you may just have to resort to what you are already doing, which is going back and rereading.

– Reagan Ramm

Question:

Generally speaking, what is the maximum number of characters recommended to put in a novel? Would this change depending upon the author’s ability to keep them all straight and maintain their individual natures, while still weaving a good, tight story?
– Kate

Answer:

Great question! In large part, this is going to be dependent on what type of story you’re writing (large-scale epic fantasy or small-town mystery story?), but there are some general principles that can be followed. First off, it might be helpful to separate characters out into three general categories: main characters, secondary characters, and background characters. These categories are kind of large and vaguely-defined, and, as you’ll see below, “secondary characters” especially is a fairly broad category, but this is probably the best way to do it without getting too complex.

With main characters, you don’t really want to have more than four to five characters. Start with your protagonist and antagonist, and maybe add a couple more, but a lot of the time, other “main” characters can really be more like secondary characters, so the line can be somewhat blurred at times. But you definitely don’t want more than five, and even five characters can be pushing it at times, unless it’s a trilogy of door-stopper fantasy novels or something like that.

Secondary characters represent a broad category since it can be anything from a faithful sidekick to a minor character who only shows up once or twice. So putting a strict limit on this is tough. There are some things to keep in mind though when assessing the number of characters. First, keep a careful eye out for redundant characters that can either be cut or combined with other characters without much harm done to the overall story. Having done this myself, I know that it can be painful to get rid of characters like this, but it is also necessary. So keep an eye out when adding a new character to see if he can just be combined with another one, or if he’s really necessary. Second, one of the best ways to test out if you have too many characters is to send your story out to some beta readers who you know will give helpful feedback on the story and see what they think. If several people are reporting back that they were confused by the number of characters, that’s a pretty good indicator that there is too many. But on the flip side, if you hear no complaints, it’s probably fine. So the number of characters in this category can vary a lot so that we can only stick to guidelines. But there is a limit.

Finally, the last category is background characters, or nameless characters that exist but are mostly defined by the groups they’re in. This would be the random street workers that your character might walk by, or the entire army of nameless-characters that is present in a fantasy work. These characters don’t get any “speaking lines” so to speak, but are present to make the rest of the world believable. With these characters, you can pretty much have as many as you want, provided they’re fulfilling their purpose.

Overall, giving each of your characters a distinctive personality does a lot to help the reader with possible character-confusion. Nine characters with distinctive personalities are easier to tell apart than three characters who all have blurred or undefined personalities. So, unfortunately, there is no clear limit for characters. But giving each character distinctive personalities, keeping an eye out for minor characters that can be cut, and relying on beta readers to make sure you’re not overdoing it is a great way to work around this problem.
 
In summary, if your readers can’t keep track of all the characters, or have a hard time telling characters apart, that is a sign you need to cut.
– Josiah DeGraaf